STILL ON MAFO: Ortom’s Stand On Ranches Courageous But How Achievable?

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By Bemgba Iortyom

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has decided to take the bull by the horns by demanding that ranching should be adopted as the accepted practice of rearing cattle by Fulani herdsmen, this as a panacea for ending the intractable and growing armed insurgency against farmers in the state by the herdsmen.

Such a stand is quite bold and courageous, considering that it is directly opposed to the ‘grazing routes’ and ‘grazing reserves’ practice preferred by the Fulani and presently by President Muhammadu Buhari who only recently, in one of his very rare comments on the Fulani insurgency, called for the implementation of this practice which essentially targets to take land from the farmers for purpose of grazing the cattle of the herdsmen.

In a nutshell the ‘grazing route’ is a federal highway for cattle running from the sahara desert all the way down to the Atlantic ocean for the pastoral migration of cattle and herdsmen, and the highway already established is marked by giant concrete beacons, running through lands which ordinarily should belong to farmers.

The ‘grazing reserves’ on the other hand are vast swatches of land taken from farmers and reserved for the herdsmen to graze and rear their cattle therein, with government providing infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity within the reserves for the herdsmen.

In both methods public resources in terms of land and finances are required to be utilized to facilitate and support the Fulani to carry out their cattle-rearing business, which ordinarily should be their private concern same as farming yams, rice, soyabeans, groundnuts or running orchards is the private business concern of farmers involved in such.

The catch here is that, perhaps, the cow is considered as more of an essential national commodity than yam, rice, soyabeans, groundnuts, etc, or the Fulani is some kind of first-class citizen whereas the farmers are inferior.

But the concept of ‘ranching’ requires the herdsmen to own and run livestock farms as their private business concerns, on lands acquired by them, same as the farmers do, and funded and run by them in the same way the farmers fund and run their farms, and this is the commonsense which makes this proposition of Gov. Ortom a thing to be given serious and close attention by the people.

First point to consider is the instrumentality by which to bring this method into force, and this is by federal legislation, in which wise we shall need to muster broad enough support in both chambers of the National Assembly to have an Act enacted to this effect.

We may not be the only state in the country in need of such legislation to be enacted, yet the need for us to be in the vanguard of mustering support for this purpose cannot be overemphasised, a fact which at once brings into focus our fortunes and clout at the National Assembly.

With six Reps members and two senators from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) we should ordinarily be in good stead to make significant input to mustering a pro-ranching coalition in the NASS, yet is the relationship amongst our representatives of the quality to bring them together on this project?

Can senators Akume and Gemade for once overcome their personal animosities and conflicting ambitions to join forces with Gov. Ortom and lead the people on this struggle to get the Nigerian state to herd the cattle of the Fulani away from the farms of the farmers into ranches owned and run by the Fulani, as ought be the practice in every civilised society.

This stand by Gov. Ortom is quite courageous and deserving of the commendation and support of every Benue citizen, yet it can only come to pass through coordinated leadership efforts devoid of petty personal bickerings which usually breed sabotage in the course of struggles.

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